Hold firm plea

Unite to Rolls-Royce: avoid short-term action that will hamper economy

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Responding to the news that Rolls-Royce is looking to cut ‘up to 8,000’ UK jobs, Unite called for the company today (May 4) to ‘hold firm’ and avoid short-term action which could hamper its emergence from the Covid-19 crisis.

Unite is urging Rolls-Royce and other manufacturing companies to avoid ‘knee-jerk’ reactions and instead work with Unite and the government to develop the industrial strategy that will develop and deliver the jobs of tomorrow.

“We say to Rolls-Royce today, step back from drastic, short-term responses and work with us to shape a positive future for a world class business, our highly skilled workforce and our communities,” commented Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing.

Turner called on the firm to, “Help us to deliver a government-led industrial strategy to build our way out of this crisis and meet the challenges of the future.”

Over the weekend it was reported the company could cut up to 8,000 jobs after aircraft manufacturers were forced to cut production during the Covid-19 pandemic, with about 15,000 of its global workforce of 52,000 based at Derby.

The aeroplane engine maker employs a total of 23,000 staff in the UK – including some very highly skilled engineers. As well as Derby, the firm has operations in six other UK locations. It also has a presence in the US, Germany, India, Singapore and Japan.

Rolls-Royce – one of the world’s largest makers of aircraft engines, had previously warned the virus was a “macro-risk for everyone”. It had previously announced plans to save £750m but now “needs to take further action”. The company is expected to tell staff the actual number of job losses by the end of May.

There is no doubt that the aviation industry has been badly hit by the pandemic as many flights across the world have been suspended. And that is why Unite is working so hard to save these vital jobs – and keep these world class skilled jobs in the UK.

“These are unprecedented times,” said Turner. “We understand the challenges to our industries from Covid-19 and the impact of government measures to protect public health on both the immediate and longer-term outlook for manufacturing as well as the wider economy.

‘Damage the economy’ 

“However, at a time when we are working hard to protect jobs and businesses through this pandemic with pay protection, government loans and other industry specific packages backed by the Bank of England, right now we are asking Rolls-Royce, along with others across manufacturing, to hold firm and defer from short-term reactions that will both damage the economy and undermine our ability to emerge from this with job security and consumer confidence intact.

“Our economy is changing and our manufacturing sector has to be in a fit shape to rise to these challenges,” Turner continued.

“The demands of climate change and major public infrastructure projects will require engineering solutions and UK manufacturers stepping up and diversifying production to meet national demands.

“Our great manufacturing sector can and must be put to work developing and manufacturing for a cleaner, greener future; the heat pumps, domestic and commercial energy storage packs, carbon capture technologies, hydrogen and other green energy generation, including ramping up work on the world class small modular nuclear reactor developed by Rolls-Royce.

‘Showcase the best of UK manufacturing’

“We have an opportunity to showcase the best of British manufacturing that requires exactly the sort of research and development, design and engineering expertise possessed by the workforce at Rolls-Royce.”

Turner called on the company and the government to act. “Now is not the time to hang up our gloves and take our eye off the ball but to get into the fight, invest our way out of a very damaging looming recession from which millions of workers will also suffer.  We need to rebuild our manufacturing base, bring home our supply chains, localise production and end our reliance on imports of technology and engineered goods.

“We can do this,” he said.

“Covid-19 has exposed dangerous weaknesses in the resilience of UK manufacturing from PPE to ventilators, automotive components to the goods necessary to meet the climate emergency.

“Now is the time for action and to support an industrial strategy to put Britain back to work, to put our engineering excellence and manufacturing capabilities centre stage, manufacturing it here at home,” he urged.

Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite 

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